Monday, January 5, 2009: 11:00 AM
Regent Parlor (Hilton New York)
The 1950s were a period of revolutionary changes in the American religious landscape. The early Billy Graham Crusades – vast, media-saturated revival meetings – produced new spaces within which to stage and experience evangelical spirituality. Graham’s closeness to political elites, however, and his political campaigning against communism transformed these traditional religious meetings, making them demonstrations of patriotism and civil duties as well as exhortations to evangelical faith. Graham’s Crusades thus must be analyzed as spiritual spaces and media events where a new form of American Christian citizenship was shaped that combined religious and national convictions in a complete new way and in doing so bridged the religious and the secular realm.
This paper analyzes three major crusades in New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta in the mid-1950s and reveals the rituals and linguistic patterns used to produce this new Christian citizenship. The analysis focuses on three main aspects: the militarization and politicization of evangelical language due to the rhetoric of support for the ‘war against communism’; the use of national symbols, such as flags and certain types of music; and the celebration of re-born national heroes from sports, politics, and the military. This paper argues that Billy Graham’s Crusades produced a new “national” spirituality that challenged traditional patterns of evangelical religiosity, civil religion, and concepts of citizenship.